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Feb 23, 2021

Distant Cousin of the Piranha is Found in New River Lagoon

A new species of freshwater fish commonly known as “pacu” has been discovered in the New River Lagoon by fishermen from nearby Lemonal.  Pacu is an omnivorous fish that originated in South America and is related to the piranha.  Unlike its distant cousin, pacu do not have similar teeth.  Instead, they have squarer, straighter teeth much like those of humans.  The sighting was made earlier this month and the presence of this invasive, non-native species suggests that it may have been introduced via the transboundary watershed between Belize and Guatemala.  According to Rigoberto Quintana, the Fisheries Department became aware of the discovery on February eleventh.


Rigoberto Quintana

Rigoberto Quintana, Senior Fisheries Officer, Belize Fisheries Dept.

“At this point we would probably link it to transboundary introduction.  It could be that during extreme flood events this species might have migrate either from Peten area or has been introduced from Mexico.  During flood events, the two watersheds, the New River and the Rio Hondo would merge together.  In 2013, we had a report of a similar sighting in the Rio Hondo mouth.  This was from Eco-Sur, Quintana Roo, so we have records of past introductions in our waterways. This is an exotic, invasive species and usually it is native to South America.  This species is classified as a detritivore, meaning that it feeds on decomposed organic material in the aquatic system.  It’s not a carnivorous fish, but yet it poses some threat to the aquatic environment in Belize.”


Isani Cayetano

“How do we know, perhaps, how fast this species is reproducing or what can we say in terms of its propagation?”


Rigoberto Quintana

“Okay, we will be monitoring the situation and also encourage fishers that if they see or they capture other specimen of this species, we will be doing a mapping of the New River Lagoon and the New River.  If indeed it’s been established then, based on studies, we will be able to find out if there are more or if they are reproducing or a population has been established in this area.”

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